Soil Preparation

Narcissi grow adequately in many soil types. A well drained, deep, fertile soil containing abundant organic matter, however, results in the best performance.

If natural drainage is poor, break the subsoil with a pickax. If the site is low, create a raised bed several inches above the surrounding soil level. Incorporate large amounts of coarse organic matter (2 inches or more) to loosen very heavy clay soil.

Good sources of organic matter are well-rotted manure, undecomposed peat moss, or compost. Narcissi, like most bulbous plants, thrive in slightly acid soils (pH 6.0 ­ 6.5). Do not add any limestone unless you have your soil tested.

The soil should be of average fertility. High fertility, particularly in nitrogen, promotes excessive leaf growth at the expense of high-quality flower production, as well as the excessive splitting of bulbs. Color and size of foliage are good indicators of fertility level. Large and bluishgreen leaves indicate an abundance of nitrogen, whereas small and light green leaves indicate a shortage.

Commonly available “bulb food” or “bulb booster” fertilizers are useful when preparing soil for narcissus planting.  These products are relatively low in nitrogen, but contain enough to support healthy plant growth. Apply 2 – 4 pounds of fertilizer per 100 square feet of bed.

Bonemeal is a traditional fertilizer for bulbous plants that releases phosphorus slowly, but it is usually too low in nitrogen to be used alone. An additional source of nitrogen must be used together with bonemeal. Wood ash is an alternative way to supply potassium. For average situations, apply 3 to 4 pounds of bonemeal and 5 to 6 pounds of wood ash to each 100 square feet of soil.

Mix the fertilizers thoroughly with the soil before planting.  The nutrients need to be located in the soil in the vicinity of and just below the bulb for best uptake by the plant. Generally, a yearly application of fertilizer should be made immediately after flowering. Bulbs planted in sandy soils benefit from fertilization in the spring when new growth is developing and also after flowering. Do not allow the fertilizer to remain on the leaves. Wash it off quickly.

If narcissi are naturalized in open lawn areas which are regularly fertilized, the lawn fertilizer is adequate for the bulbs, too.

Time of Planting

Bulbs are shipped from catalog suppliers and also are available from garden centers in early fall. If the weather is extremely warm, it is better to hold the bulbs in storage and then plant them when the weather cools. October is generally best for bulb planting. This enables the bulbs to develop strong roots in the fall, which supports flowering in the spring.

Planting Depth

The proper depth to plant narcissus bulbs is governed by the size of the bulbs and the soil type. As a general rule, plant bulbs twice as deep as their greatest diameter in medium to heavy soils and about three times their depth in sandy soils.

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